Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 22 June 2024

NCERT textbooks need to keep pace with changing times

Relevance: GS Papert I

Why in News?

Teaching students a balanced history that minimises conflict-based narratives does not limit their access to multiple versions of history. Those who progress to higher education can study more nuanced historical accounts.

More About News: 

  • Historical narratives in school textbooks have often been influenced by partisan or narrow viewpoints since Independence.
  • The objective was clearly to construct a view of Indian history that suppresses India's profound impact on the world's civilisation, resulting in a skewed perception of our national identity and historical narrative.
  • There were also often efforts made to avoid recognizing India's achievements in art, literature, philosophy, education, science, technology, and economic development.
  • It should not overlook the ethical implications of one-sided historical facts in the earlier school textbooks.
  • It should also be questioned whether it would help promote social cohesion and mutual respect among our school children if such conflict-focused history books continue to be used in our schools.
  • Opposition to meaningful textbook revisions stems from the old narrow ideological thought process, knowing well that such a stance risks eternalising historical grievances and animosities into the future.

Impact on Students and Need for Revision:

  • In their formative years, school children do not possess the capacity to comprehend intense emotions and complex moral dilemmas.
  • Exposing young school students to the aggressiveness of historical events and conflicts can cause anxiety and emotional distress, as they are still developing their cognitive and emotional capabilities.
  • If historical conflicts are introduced at inappropriate stages of education in the school curriculum, it can immortalise deficit perceptions of the broader historical context in children's minds.
  • The history taught to students in schools should not lead to animosities and prejudices that could divide communities.

Balanced Approach and Role of Higher Education:

  • Appropriate textbook revisions are vital to provide a balanced, credible and reliable historical narrative, underscoring positive examples of conflict resolution and mutual respect.
  • School textbooks should be prioritized enabling them to become responsible and empathetic citizens with a finer insight into India's heritage, while building the cognitive and emotional foundation essential for future critical analysis.
  • Teaching school students a balanced history that minimises conflict-based narratives does not limit their access to multiple versions of history as they grow older.
  • Universities are autonomous; their statutory bodies approve the syllabus in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, and they have the freedom to decide what is taught to their students and what books to follow as reference texts.
  • University students can engage in informed and in-depth discussions about all aspects of historical conflicts with a mature perspective. 
    • This, in turn, will help the students develop their scholarly opinions based on debate, discussion and critical analysis.
  • In fact, universities are the appropriate places for students to engage with contentious facets of history since they possess the cognitive maturity to critically analyse and understand multiple perspectives.
  • Universities should remain centres of academic freedom where students can thoroughly examine complex historical issues without prejudice.

Significance of Revision of books:

  • Revising school textbooks focusing on balanced narratives is not an end but a beginning.The foundation that the students attain from such balanced textbooks will help them build a deeper historical understanding in later years. 
  • One of the pedagogical goals of school education is to help adolescent students develop a constructive and positive attitude toward their future roles in society by exposing them to a comprehensive understanding of history so that they are not trapped in an early disillusionment.

Way Forward:

  • The revised school textbooks must present a fact-based history that promotes a broad knowledge of India’s past. Therefore, they must rightly emphasise national unity, national belonging, and India’s cultural and historical contributions, moving away from divisive narratives and compartmentalisation. 
  • Textbooks should teach students the value of unity, the ubiquity of inclusivity and peaceful co-existence, instead of attempting to weave disparate narratives of division and conflict.
  • A growing body of research indicates that school textbooks need to keep pace with the changing times to be responsive in meeting the emergent needs of students.
  • The sole purpose of revising school textbooks should be to present a balanced curriculum fostering a culture of empathy, curiosity, understanding and critical thinking among children to fuel their ambition to further studies later.


There is still much to be done to develop meaningful pedagogical praxis that fosters healthy, creative and inquisitive thinking among our students. By revising the textbooks, we can provide our school kids access to every opportunity to thrive and realize their potential in building a strong India. While the newly revised school textbooks are a welcome development, as envisaged in the National Education Policy 2020, we must continue to revise the textbooks at reasonable periodic intervals to ensure that these books support the diverse ways of learning to enhance students’ critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities.

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